Total tune: Variable Approximately three panel sessions at 1 1/2 to 2 hours each
• Share staff members' experiences, knowledge and techniques with trainees;
• Provide specific information regarding aquaculture practices in countries in which trainers served;
• Provide examples, through sharing experiences, of how concepts learned and observed during training can be applied to an in-country situation;
• Provide opportunity for trainees to fill in gaps in their information, clarify technical points on which they are still not clear, and ask any remaining technical questions.
Overview: This is really the first time in the program that the staff formally serves as a direct resource. During these panel discussions, trainees have the opportunity to pose any questions they may have about fish culture, extension or other aspects of working as a fisheries volunteer overseas. Though the discussion is mainly directed by the trainees,staff members may also choose to speak about topics they feel are especially important or need further reinforcement, or to volunteer specific techniques of which they are aware that they feel trainees may find helpful.
1. Prior to each trainer panel session, the trainees are informed of the topics to be discussed at that session. They are encouraged to prepare their questions in advance so that the time can be used effectively, and to try to limit questions to the topic under discussion.
2. For the panel discussion, chairs can be arranged in a large circle, or if that is not feasible, the staff members (as well as any visiting RPCV's) sit facing the group at the front of the room. Either one staff member or a specific trainee may serve as the coordinator for the discussion, keeping everyone on the topic and accepting questions in an organized way.
3. To begin the session, the trainer coordinator should introduce each staff member (or have each staff member introduce him/herself), including information about the country in which each person served and any special areas of expertise, experience or highlights of service.
4. Trainees address their questions to specific staff members or to the staff as a group. The discussion inevitably becomes lively and everyone is encouraged to get involved, though it is important to maintain some order and be cautious about spending too much time on tangents.
5. As each panel session comes to a close, the person coordinating should review the topics that have been addressed and notify everyone about the topics to be discussed in the next session.
Resources and Materials:
• Comfortable meeting area
• Blackboard, chalk and eraser for listing topics or for illustrating points that arise during the discussion
• Trainers may choose to bring some technical slides or other visual aid materials if they wish to describe specific techniques.
• As stated above, these panel sessions can be coordinated by either a staff member or by a trainee. It is best to give the responsibility for designing and implementing the format to a trainee. Be sure to select a trainee who has good organizational and leadership skills. Work closely enough with him/her to be sure the format is organized enough and well thought out enough to work. If the format is left too open (for example, if topics are not addressed in some set order, one at a time), the discussions can become chaotic and may wander so much that a lot of information is either overlooked or repeated. Thought should also be given to how questions should be posed and how it will be determined who is to answer them or in what order.
• Using the seminar topics as a way of dividing the topics for these discussions works pretty well. Staff members will be able to help the coordinator determine which topics are likely to take longer to address than others so that the topics can be grouped in a way that uses time the most efficiently.
• For the staff, trainer panels are exciting. It is the first opportunity staff members have to be completely open in sharing all of their knowledge and experiences. This is generally a very positive aspect of these discussions and they tend to be very dynamic and lively. At the same time, however, they can be frustrating because there is so much more to talk about than there is time. Trainers need to be prepared for this and to do some prioritizing in their own minds as well as being sensitive to what the trainees want to learn about. It is true that there will be some information the staff wants to provide that the trainees will not even know to ask, and staff members should bring up these issues, but there must be a balance and staff members have to accept that they will probably not be able to say everything they'd like to say.
• Another point about which staff members should be cautious. If topics are arranged similarly to seminar topics, keep in mind that regardless of your own opinions about the relative importance of the different topics, trainees put a tremendous amount of effort into whichever topic they presented. One of the basic tenets of the training program is that it is important to have a broad base of knowledge and a wide range of skills in order to be prepared for any situation. Therefore, avoid thoughtless remarks like "Oh, don't even worry about that topic. You'll never even have to deal with it".
• The more trainer panels that can fit into the schedule the better. Inevitably, everyone is frustrated that there isn't more time. The panels should not be too long, however, because people can only absorb so much information at once, especially when they have a lot on their minds as the trainees certainly will. That is why several hour and a half to two hour sessions are better than one very long one. Trainers are encouraged to continue meeting and talking with trainers during informal and free times (meals, weekends, doing laundry, etc.) if trainees wish to do so.